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Kristin Rudolph April 26, 2012
In the 48 hours before April 25, 2012 when the Supreme Court heard arguments on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, faith-based activists gathered for a prayer vigil, hoping the Court will overturn the state’s legislation. The vigil was organized by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (IIC), which describes itself as “a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform that reflects our mandate to welcome the stranger and treat all human beings with dignity and respect.” The vigil “Intended to lift up the moral responsibility of all people of faith to ‘welcome the stranger’ and ‘love thy neighbor.’”
A group of over 100 clergy participated in the vigil, including Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals, and others who decried Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 as “discriminatory,” “harsh,” “anti-immigrant.” Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, claimed the law is “a social and racial sin,” that “serves only to divide communities in Arizona, preying on fear and distrust of individuals.” She further stated: “All people are created in the image of God, and the Arizona law is an assault on that moral reality.”
Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church stated: “I have confidence that the U.S. Supreme Court will repeal S.B. 1070. However, even if the Supreme Court is unable to make this right and bold decision, United Methodists in Arizona and across the U.S. will stand firmly and compassionately with our immigrant brothers and sisters.” The law’s opponents are most concerned about the provision allowing police to request proof of citizenship based on “reasonable suspicion” of illegal status. The activists claimed the law will lead to “racial profiling and judging people on how they look regardless of citizenship,” even though the law specifically states that “A law enforcement official … may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements” of S.B. 1070.
The Court will decide the case based on whether the Arizona immigration law treads illegally on the Constitutional territory of federal law. In a joint press release, the IIC stated its concern that this decision will “determine whether the U.S. will have one immigration policy or fifty.” According to the statement, upholding the law could lead to more “Arizona styled anti-immigrant laws [that] have proven harsh and unjust as they tear apart families, jeopardize community safety, destroy state economies, and leave crops rotting in the fields.”
At a press conference in front of the Supreme Court on April 25 only minutes before the hearing began, Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition prayed, “God of the stranger … help us to be a nation of welcoming, a nation of immigrants.” Following his prayer, a number of activists warned about potentially disastrous effects of the law.
Dr. Warren Stewart, senior pastor of a Baptist church in Arizona and chairman of the National Immigration Forum Board of Directors, said: “As a pastor and civil rights leader in a diverse and tightly knit community in Phoenix, Arizona, I can attest to the culture of fear in Latino and immigrant communities created by S.B. 1070. This discriminatory law does not reflect our values; it is not who we are as a nation.”
Also presenting “the faith perspective” was Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, who said “We are here because we see our immigrant brothers and sisters in a different way. While some may view these wonderful brothers and sisters as a threat, we view them as a positive value for our country, as illustrated throughout our history going back to the 1600’s.”
“We focus on the human dignity of each and every created person and so we see in this struggle not just legal issues, we see the struggle for the value of human dignity ... we look at this particular effort of preserving our immigrant heritage through the eyes of the individual person,” he said.
Mahony warned that “Alone and separated we will never make it as a country, but united and with those values that have been given to us passed down through the centuries … together we will be able to have a wonderful, just society where all are included, where all are welcome.”
He claimed the support of “faith communities across the country … [who] are very much with us in this effort.”
In the final remarks at the press conference Rev. Gabriel Salguero, claiming to speak for “the Evangelical community,” said: “Americans of faith -- Evangelical, Catholic, of every stripe, are saying, ‘these are not the laws we want legislated … we don’t want piecemeal patchwork state by state. We want comprehensive immigration reform that’s federal.’” Further, he warned, “If other states continue to follow the model of Arizona, like Alabama, there’s going to be serious repercussions by faith leaders in the electoral vote. We’re not going to be silent on this. This for us is a spiritual and moral issue. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’”
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